The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) got clearance from a federal judge this week to intervene in the ongoing lawsuit against some of the largest poultry processing companies in the U.S. — including Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms — for conspiring to inflate chicken prices through collusion to control supply between 2008 and 2016.
The Justice Department petitioned the court in the Northern District of Illinois last week asking to intervene in the case after launching its own criminal probe into the price collusion allegations. Judge Thomas Durkin ordered a three-month halt on part of the pending litigation. That was half the time the DOJ requested which included non-evidentiary discovery of the defendants to protect against grand jury investigation.
The original suit against the poultry industry was filed in September 2016 by Maplevale Farms Inc., but several additional suits have followed including complaints from Walmart and Kroger as well as foodservice giants Sysco and U.S. Foods.
In a recent regulatory filing, Tyson Foods said the company was notified in April that the DOJ was issuing a grand jury subpoena for information gleaned from the discovery process as far back as 2016.
“We are aware of the Department of Justice’s motion to intervene in the matter and its request for a limited stay of discovery,” Tyson Foods spokesman told Talk Business & Politics on Thursday (June 27). “We do not oppose these efforts and will be fully responsive to the Department’s investigation as may be requested. These events do not change our view that there is simply no merit to the allegations that Tyson Foods colluded with competitors. We remain committed to vigorously defending ourselves against such baseless allegations.”